Thursday, July 14, 2011

Group Work is Rewarding?

In library school they always made us do a ton of group work in a slightly desperate attempt to teach us how to collaborate. This will mimic the real world, they said. Once you get your job, you’ll have to collaborate with your co-workers on projects. Why not start that now?

Well, for the most part, they were right, but for some reason “group work” seems even worse in the workforce than it did in grad school. I think that group work in grad school is tolerable because there is a pretty good chance you’ll get at least one team member who is on the ball. Also, the group work suffering ends at an appointed time (i.e. the end of the semester), so the diligent students feel free to work harder on their projects because there is an end in sight.

Reasons I am thinking about this: my library is currently in the middle of a massive shifting project. (At least it feels massive. There are only 2 floors to my library, so it’s not as bad as it could be.) In the midst of this project, the rest of the librarians realize that the library has NEVER been weeded. Ever. Since its inception. Cue massive weeding project. And now we arrive at my group work frustration.

Once everyone realized that project (i.e. the cataloger) participants were not pleased with the direction of the project, we had a big brainstorm group meeting to communicate our goals and plans accurately to each other (which should have happened in the beginning). Communication is not a strong point of my library, primarily because most of the employees have been there a while and understand how operations are supposed to work. We all collectively decided in this meeting that we would weed certain areas per our subject “specialties”, write the faculty for approval, and then remove the books. Weeding is a collaborative process: librarians, the cataloger, and faculty are all involved. Our workflow is

Librarian analyzes / weeds books >> Faculty approve or disapprove selections >> Books go to the cataloger for removal and disposal

The workflow works pretty well, except for the fact that it is a funnel: there are multiple librarians and faculty and one cataloger (who refuses to ask for help). Furthermore, the cataloger feels that it is her job to re-evaluate our weeds. I can’t quite figure out what bothers me about this. Is it because my authority and experience is questioned? Is it because this slows the process down immensely as our cataloger spends 5 minutes on every book? Is it because I feel that she is an interfering busybody? Is it her tone when she questions my weeds? I don’t know. I also realize that her input is important because she has been at the library so long, and she knows the collection really well. She doesn’t really have a firm grasp on how students use our resources, but she knows what books we have, why we have them, where they came from, what courses they support, and so on.

My boss has stressed over and over how weeding is a collaborative process. My boss doesn’t want to get involved in what I am sure she views as territorial scuffles. Meanwhile, the other librarians and I are getting very frustrated. In group work, everyone has a part of the project to complete. If someone doesn’t do their part, the other group members pick up the slack. Currently, we are all doing our work, so there is no need for others to pick up the slack. There is also a person at the end of the project who makes sure that everything is cohesive. It just burns my biscuit that the cataloger is that end of project person, and she doesn’t seem to share the same vision of an academic library as the librarians.

1 comment:

  1. I'm having flashbacks to our weeding project the first day in 613 that we completed as pairs. But I'm pretty sure Pinecone would not be in favor of your cataloger having the final say and putting your weeds back on the shelf. I think also I'm an elitest who thinks professional level staff should be the ones to weed?